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A little cheese and a little whine

Five New New Labour Policies

No prizes to those who recognise the lines from that immortal ditty “Back for Good” by Manchester beat combo “Take That”:

Whatever I said, whatever I did, I didn’t mean it, I just want you back for good.

Translation:

I have no principles, and no commitment to anything I say. I am, further, willing to say anything if it means we can start having sex again.

Now that we’ve familiarised ourselves with this sentiment, we can turn to Ed Balls’ interview in the Guardian.

I want to set the scene with a quotation from the middle of the article:

“To our surprise members of the Liberal Democrat party were willing to entirely rip up their manifesto and reach an agreement with David Cameron. That suggests a desire for power which goes beyond principle. We are now the progressive party of British politics.” – Balls

Strong words. Stirring words. Words which will appeal to those who feel sold down the river by Clegg, people seeking the true progressive party of the future. Labour is that party, says Balls; he has thought long and hard about the election result, and understands what Labour got wrong. Let’s consider his conclusions.

  1. Labour were on the wrong side of the immigration debate. ie, Labour shouldn’t have let as many foreigners in
  2. Labour weren’t on the side of people in marginal seats
  3. Labour made it difficult for disadvantaged school leavers to go into university because it meant getting into enormous debt immediately. Balls realises it would be much more sensible for them to pay more tax later.
  4. Labour failed to help the struggling middle classes. Presumably these are the people who “work hard and pay their taxes” but still have less than their unemployed neighbours [author’s note – if anyone knows who these people are I am simply dying to see how these figures stack up]
  5. Labour didn’t do enough to help people living in the South of the country, and should have spent more in tax credits on families there than in the North

Let’s recap what Balls wants to do:

  1. Restrict immigration
  2. Convince people in marginal seats that Labour is on their side
  3. Place a tax on people who want to contribute to the economy by developing their knowledge and skills
  4. Give more help to the middle class
  5. Spend more tax payers’ money in the most prosperous regions of the country

I’ve examined these ideas from several angles, and looked up various definitions of “progressive”, and, do you know, I just can’t get the two to square. It’s almost as if giving more money to people who are already better off, having people pay for their education and engaging in blatant electioneering doesn’t amount to progressive politics at all.

The Labour party came into being to represent the interests of a class of people who faced constant injustice. That class still exists, and is more populous than ever, although the injustices (in this country at least) do not bite so sharp. Labour could return to those principles, to try to make sure that wealth stays with those who create it and that as a society we stand united in our willingness to underwrite a decent standard of life for all. Or it could rise above partisanship, and be the party the represents all interests, a truly modern, progressive party committed to service not of one class but of all classes, committed to the interests not of its supporters but of the whole nation.

The plan, however, seems to be to twist and turn in the wind, chasing swinging votes in marginal seats in a bid to get back into power frenzied enough to fend off the realisation that it no longer remembers why it wanted power to begin with.

Reminding ourselves of the immortal words of Take That, Balls’ otherwise sensible remarks about the leadership contest take on a new tone:

“Whether I stand or not, whoever wins I will back them 100% because that is the only way for us to win.” – Balls

If ever a man knew about a desire for power which goes beyond principle, it appears it is Mr Balls.

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Filed under: Politics

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My Bookshelf

The Golden Bough
The Value of Nothing
The Fire
A Wolf at the Table
Devil Bones

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